Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver met with the media in early January to talk about the season past and the season to come. He talked about accountability, and the importance of it being a standard adhered to by everyone in the building.
"You can have a star player that plays his heart out on game day, but if he's not accountable to do the other things every day that we expect in this organization, in strength and training and practice tempo and all of those things, it doesn't work." Weaver said.
The first step in that process for the players begins on April 5, when the players report for the first official day of the offseason conditioning program. Second-year strength coach Luke Richesson has been busy the past three months, doing his part to prepare for the start of a new offseason program. There will be new equipment, a different look to the weight room, and higher expectations, all geared toward building a playoff team in 2010.
Richesson sat down with jaguars.com to discuss his first season in the NFL, what players can expect when they return to Jacksonville, and the importance of team unity.
First things first, how was your first season in the National Football League?
In the past, I would have the guys before the combine and then when they started to leave for their pro days the vets were showing up. I would have the guys up until August, but then I was a spectator watching on television. Now to be a part of the bigger picture and truly have my own guys, man, it was a great ride. These last 13 months have gone by in the blink of an eye.
You told me last year that you had a plan for what you wanted to accomplish. Did you have to deviate any from the plan?
A little bit. For the most part, I put it in my head what I wanted to have happen and it seems like we are going according to plan. Obviously, we didn't get the wins that we wanted. Phase one was, 'let's get the weight room set up so we can accomplish the things we need to get done on the front end.' I surrounded myself with three excellent staff members. We wanted a nutritionist in-house and we got that accomplished. We really laid a foundation of being able to have the guys start to understand that this is an excellent resource for them to be able to help themselves, and not just be viewed as workouts they have to make. But we can help prolong their career and alleviate pain. We have people to talk to them if they need it, but also improve their performance.
Give me a couple of things you learned during the process.
One of the big things is that I hadn't been on the sidelines with a football team since 1999 in my Arizona State days. Just getting back and seeing the physical demands of the game at this level, the expectations of watching film, being on point, and just making sure that you temper the loads that you are using, making sure you are not compounding any potential issues. You want to stay ahead of the curve.
I imagine it will be a little different this year because most of the guys are now familiar with the process. You spent a lot of time last year explaining the process of why you were doing certain things.
Exactly. There are a lot of things to be excited about this year. I have my staff and the players know them. Mr. Weaver, Gene Smith and Coach Del Rio have all been supportive in doing whatever we need to do to set our team up to be successful. I'm not a huge equipment guy, but there were some things that could help us grow in the power and strength areas. We are going to push the envelope more than we did this past year in regards to strength. It will be a process that we will go into with sound methodology, but the guys need to be prepared to work. It will be a physically and mentally more challenging program than last year. I think last year was a shock to some guys, or to more guys than not. It's going up another level.
Was it more of a shock to the veterans, or rookies?
I would say probably the veterans, more so than the rookies. It depends on what their exposure has been to strength and conditioning or performance. One of the big components we try to do is to educate, explain why we are doing something. Once they get into it a lot of these guys empower themselves to be able to make the right decisions and know how to train when they are away from us, like these last three months.
The look on your face right now shows how passionate you are for this job.
We are very excited to get going. I wish we could fast-forward the next three weeks and get to it. I know the players probably don't want to hear that.
I had a player tell me the other day and I have heard it many times before; the NFL is a year-round job if you want to be the best.
The main thing we have preached is that when the season is over, you need to take two to maybe three weeks off. From there, you need to start to get active even if it's just two or three times a week. We supply them with a program. The main thing is that the nutrition doesn't deviate. They will eat sound and have a good body composition, but if they just go south on the diet then it's like starting from scratch every time. That can wear on a guy. A guy could get 10 or 11 years, but then they get to six or seven and they can't do it anymore. They just say they can't do it again. Coach Del Rio has always preached setting a routine. I don't think you can deviate too far from that routine. It has become a year-round gig. It's so competitive that if you're not on top of your game, someone else next to you is.
You said last year you wanted to create an atmosphere of team unity with your program and have guys want to come to the stadium. Did you see that start to happen last year?
Without a doubt. We have really tried to foster that chemistry. I think we have had good success, but now it needs to take another step. These guys really need to truly look at themselves as brothers. It's not one superstar that's going to get it done. It's going to take a collective effort to make it happen. There are some areas of work with the physical grind. You are going to see who's going to respond, who's going to step up, and who's going to lead. If their teammate next to them starts to waver, do they pick him up? How do they respond? I have been real encouraged by what we have seen with the players we have brought in. It should be a great offseason.
Mr. Weaver has talked in recent months about becoming a more physical team in 2010. Have you heard those sentiments?
I take it very personal, not that he is singling me out. But that is an area where I think we can put our fingerprint on the team.
How do you accomplish it?
It's a couple of things. It's a mentality that when we break the huddle, you are getting your butt in line and we will get this. I believe our guys are coming together, but I still believe there are areas we can improve in with just the raw grit. It is going to come from strength. The stronger you are, the more of an edge you are going to bring to it. That is an area we are going to address, not necessarily just through bench press. It's through squatting, deadlifting; they are going to be challenged to have that raw horsepower to move the line. We all know it starts with the guys in the trenches. The 300-pound guys are going to be determined.
Gene Smith brought in two large players last year on the offensive line in Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe. What have you seen from them?
They have a lot of room for growth. They are big pieces of clay, believe it or not, that are still raw and undeveloped. We can grow and mold them into what we are looking for. We are looking for big men that are athletic and play with an attitude.
It should be an interesting atmosphere when the program gets underway.
We always talk about how the hotter the fire is the harder the steel. We have turned up the heat on the guys, but it's going to be a more consistent higher heat than it was this past year.